Hackney Area Guide

“If you’re tired of Hackney you’re tired of life.”

Ok, so the original quote was “London” but, as letting agents in Hackney, it sometimes feels to us like this spot in the capital is vibrant and diverse enough to be an entire city all on its own. As a place to live, Hackney is well connected, culturally rich and often on the cutting edge of new things, whether that’s food or fashion. But it’s not just a location for hipsters or coffee obsessives, as Hackney has also made it on to the Sunday Times Best Places to Live Guide. It has solid credentials as a location for families, professionals and creatives too.

Hackney – ALL the bombs dropped here

Hackney has some serious history and much of it is evidenced in the architecture of the area, from the Georgian homes in the Clapton Square Conservation Area, to the Edwardian Arts and Crafts tenement block that is Navarino Mansions. Over the centuries Hackney has evolved from a medieval village – called the township of Hackney in the 14th century – becoming a single street town until the railways arrived in the late 19th century. After that, Hackney quickly grew into a centre for industry and the local population increased exponentially as a result. Victorian terraces popped up everywhere to accommodate the middle working classes, many of which are now recognised as conservation areas. Pockets of Hackney were destroyed during WWII – more than 700 bombs were dropped in this part of London between 1940 and 1941.

Since then there has been major redevelopment, peaking with all the new construction around the 2012 Olympics. The result is that today Hackney is a spirited borough, a mix of ex local authority, Georgian mansions, warehouse conversions and Victorian rows of properties – and a bona fide historic London place to live.

Essential Hackney info

  • If you’ve ever watched Eastenders and felt like Albert Square looked familiar it might well be because it was rumoured to be inspired by Hackney’s Broadway Market.
  • All the industry in Hackney made it a big target for the Germans during the First World War too – the first bomb of the war was dropped on Nevill Road in Stoke Newington.
  • Many great creative projects have begun in Hackney – the Sex Pistols Sid Vicious and John Lydon met at Hackney Technical College
  • Some of the famous people who grew up in Hackney or were educated in the borough include Tony Blair, Lord Alan Sugar, Michael Caine and Dick Turpin.

More than Brompton Bikes – Hackney transport routes

You won’t be stuck for options when it comes to experiencing all that London has to offer from a Hackney base.

Buses. Hackney is one of the best connected places in London in terms of buses – routes such as the 55, 38, 30, 242 and 48 will take you into the centre of the capital or to the City.

Train. The Overground opened in London in 2007 and when Hackney stations were added the area received a new lease of life in terms of connectedness. Jump on at Hackney Wick, Hackney Downs or Hackney Central and you can access a wide range of destinations, from Kew Gardens to Shepherds Bush and Camden Road. The East Anglia Line from Hackney Downs provides a super fast connection into Liverpool Street Station in less than 10 minutes.

Pedal power. Hackney has the highest number of people cycling to work in London and the second highest number in England – if you love getting about on two wheels this is the location for you. You don’t have to stick to the roads either, as there are plenty of cycle routes that will take you via waterways and parks.

Taxis. It’s just over 8 miles from Hackney Wick to a central location like Oxford Circus. Although the traffic in London can be backed up at peak times, on a clear day you’ll be able to do the journey in around 17 - 30 minutes.

Airports. If you’re going further afield you’ll have your pick of locations to fly from:

  • City Airport = 35 minutes by Overground
  • Stanstead = 35 minutes by road
  • Gatwick and Heathrow = 60 – 90 minutes by rail

Leafy and lovely – the greenest borough in London

Despite its urban reputation, Hackney benefits from a whopping 58 parks – in fact, it’s rumoured to be London’s most park-filled borough. These are some of the most popular green spaces:

  • Abney Park - one of the 'Magnificent Seven' garden cemeteries of London.
  • Clissold Park - has held a Green Flag award since 2006 and hosts an organic food growing area.
  • Hackney Downs – home to some excellent basketball and tennis courts.
  • Hackney Marshes – widely renowned as the spiritual home of Sunday league football.
  • Haggerston Park – the location of Hackney City Farm
  • London Fields – home to the famous London Fields Lido
  • Springfield Park – lucky enough to be undergoing a £3.3m restoration project to add, among other things, landscaping and new play facilities.

Hackney’s parks are a good indication of just what a family friendly borough this is. Anyone looking for parks with play areas will find plenty to choose from, including Millfields Park, Daubeney Fields and West Hackney Recreation Ground.

We don’t need no education (yes you do – and Hackney has it covered)

Hackney has 26 primary schools, 8 secondary schools, 1 nursery school and 22 other educational institutions (e.g. independent schools) so there is choice when it comes to fulfilling educational needs. A range of state schools, academies, free schools and religious schools ensure that all pupils are catered for. Hackney Council provides full details of all the schools in the borough.

It’s also worth noting that the Hackney Learning Trust has an agenda to improve the life chances of every child, young person and learner in Hackney. As a result, Hackney has positioned itself as one of the most forward looking local education systems in the UK.

Recommended schools and nurseries in South Hackney

Expand your culinary consciousness

It’s impossible to categorise all the opportunities to drink and dine in Hackney, in part because the restaurant, pub and bar scene here is vibrant and constantly changing. It’s often in Hackney where the latest food trends pop up or where you’ll be able to try the most cutting edge dining experiences. These are some of our top tips:

Markets. Make sure you visit Hackney’s markets, as the food options here are quite mindblowing, from cupcakes to vegan steak. These are some of our favourites:

Broadway Market
London E8 4QJ
Try: the vege scotch eggs

Ridley Road Market
London E8 2NP
Every day except Sunday
Try: the mouthwatering mangos

Netil Market
London E8 3RL
Every day
Try: the halloumi fries

Restaurants. Hackney has a dazzling array of restaurants so you’ll always find something to chow down on in this part of London. Michelin-starred Pidgin serves a weekly changing tasting menu focussed around four central courses and Morito has become a spot of pilgrimage for those who love their salt cod. My Neighbours the Dumplings is a prime example of a Hackney pop up that did so well it’s now become permanent – perfect for local dim sum fanatics – and if you are a dough lover the Bread Station is not to be missed. Buen Ayre on Broadway market is legendary for its steak – especially if you like it with a side of fried cheese.

Drinking. Just like the local restaurant scene, drinking in Hackney caters to just about every taste, with new flavours popping up all the time. The area has some wonderful traditional pubs, many of which have been updated and regenerated, as well as lots of cool bars and paradise spots for real ale drinkers. The Auld Shillelagh on Church Street has a good sized beer garden – ideal for summer - and the Chesham Arms feels just like a country pub in the middle of the city. If cocktails are more your thing, there is always the Looking Glass Cocktail Club or Every Cloud Bar.

Cultural Carpe Diem – Hackney is the place for it

Hackney is, without a doubt, one of London’s cultural hot spots. Whether you’re looking for a warehouse party, a family rave or cutting edge arts, you will find plenty to keep you occupied here.

Theatre. Hackney theatre covers the full spectrum, from established shows and panto at the Hackney Empire, to fringe productions at The Yard or the Arcola.

Cinema. The Hackney Picturehouse is probably the most famous spot for cinema in this part of London but you’ll also find a wide range of films at other locations, such as the Rio Cinema. Hackney also set the trend for al fresco cinema, whether you’re viewing from deckchairs or a hot tub.

Art. As you might expect for such a creative location, Hackney is an arts hub. Located in an abandoned mental hospital, The Residence Gallery is constantly looking to redefine the notion of contemporary art. Vyner Street is also a renowned location for galleries, such as Modern Art, which opened in 1998.

Music. Hackney clubs span the full spectrum, from cheesy nights out to serious dance parties. There are also plenty of live music venues around this part of London too - Oslo by Hackney Downs station has become one of the most popular.

Shopping. Stores in Hackney cater to most tastes, from boutiques and delis through to big supermarkets like Lidl and Marks & Spencer. Westfield shopping centre is just 10 minutes on the train from Hackney Central and this part of London is awash with small independent stores looking for support for everything from fashion to cheese.

Families. For those with young children, living in Hackney provides access to a wealth of activities and entertainment. From karate and judo training to crafts clubs and sports teams, the options are plentiful. Nearby Visit Lee Valley is a wonderful resource for families with lots of activities on offer, such as white water rafting and horse riding.

Fitness and wellness

The range of gyms, studios and council run leisure centres caters to the full spectrum of fitness and wellness needs in Hackney. Fit-this, for example, pitches itself as ‘Hackney’s number 1 gym’ and offers both a fully stocked gym and a timetable of classes. Clissold Leisure Centre has a 100+ station gym, fitness, teaching and toddler pools, outdoor training areas and a comprehensive fitness class programme. For the yoga and pilates devotees there are many studios,

Including the innovative Hot Pod Yoga, which has a timetable of hot yoga sessions that are delivered inside a large inflatable pod. You’ll also find holistic medicine options at Holistic Health Hackney and plenty of ways to get into mindfulness and meditation at the London Buddhist Centre.

Progress and development

The 2012 Olympics marked something of a watershed for Hackney and improvement in the borough has been ongoing ever since. New developments are springing up all the time and care is being taken to preserve the local character of the area. The council has been running its borough wide 2,760 home estate regeneration programme now for several years and it’s become one of the largest in London.

Keep your finger on the Hackney pulse

Everything changes in Hackney at lightning speed so if you’re looking to stay plugged in to what’s going on these are some great resources that you can use.

  • Love Hackney. From things to do, to reasons to love East London, Love Hackney is a fantastic resource for all things East.
  • Storeys Twitter @Storeys_london. As letting agents in Hackney we frequently post about goings on in this part of London and the latest coffee heroes or pop up establishments. Head over to our Twitter and give us a follow if you want to stay up to date.
  • Hackney Post. - This publication covers everything, from what’s going on in the area to ideas for things to do at the weekend. It’s local in every sense of the word.


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